Kirstie Allsopp in twitter row with NCT

(183 Posts)
DuelingFanjo Sun 20-Feb-11 22:59:01

Sorry for the DM link.

what do you think about this?

Personally I think my NCT class covered C-sections very well, though there was an emphasis on 'natural' birth through-out the course. I was glad of the C-Section info when I was signing papers for the possibility, though in the end didn't need one.

Sadly my experience (Midwives not checkinghow dilated I was, No gas and Air for ages, Having waters broken, Spinal at 10 cm dilated, episiotomy and so on) has made me wonder if I would want to attempt a more natural birth next time - I am worried that I will be too scared to try.

Do you think she is right though, are women who have C-sections being made to feel like failures?

janey68 Sun 06-Jan-13 21:25:52

When I had my first dc in a MLU, the midwife who had delivered my baby was siting chatting to me 24 hours later during a night feed (yes- they had TIME to sit and chat and be supportive there!) She chatted about her previous job in the large district hospital which I would have gone to if I hadn't booked into the MLU. She told me how much more rewarding it was to work in the MLU, how midwives were allowed to get on with their specialised role of supporting women in labour without the numerous pressures in a bustling hospital. Her only disappointment about the role was that more women didn't choose to deliver there. A lot of mums transferred (as fast as possible) after delivering in hospital but she really wished more women realised that for a normal pregnancy, the MLU was a really good option, with a 100% safety record.

A big part of it was down to the NCT that I made that choice, Because the focus on non invasive pain relief helped me feel confident that I could cope. At the end of the day, the majority of births could be like that.
I'm not viewing it through rose tinted specs- it was a long painful labour but I was well supported by my midwife which is key

A final word: if kirstie Allsop needed csections to save her babies lives then why on earth would she feel bad about it? IME the cases where women feel negative about interventions like CS or forceps or epidural is when they realise their experience could have been different. No way are a quarter of births in the UK medically necessary as CS (in some hospitals nearer 50%). There is a world of difference between a life saving intervention and one which actually could have been avoided.

Shagmundfreud Sun 06-Jan-13 20:03:32

I think IrnBru, you'll find that the majority of women already know LONG before they attend antenatal classes that many, many mums have emergency c/s, forceps and ventouse deliveries.

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 06-Jan-13 19:39:25

Shag I was actually referring to the most common types of 'worse case scenarios' as in the types of births, i.e. you don't always get the birth you want that you've dreamed of on your birth plan.

Shagmundfreud Sun 06-Jan-13 19:18:10

IrnBru - 'worse case' scenarios would include a mother in ICU or dead. Three women died in the space of 12 weeks in my local hospital in 2011. Substandard care was found to be a contributing factor in two of the deaths. I've observed a good few NHS classes and I've yet to witness a midwife acknowledging that some women will get suboptimal care, which may impact on their experience of the birth and the mode of birth. And yet when this very important issue is acknowledged in NCT classes the NCT is accused of being anti-doctor and also, perversely, for being idealistic about birth.

IrnBruTheNoo Sun 06-Jan-13 18:06:29

Never been to NCT classes so cannot comment on what they are like. I do think it is covered brilliantly by the NHS classes though (well, the ones I attended were covered extremely well by the midwife taking them, with various speakers too). We had lots of 'worse case scenario' type advice. I wanted real advice, the gritty kind.

Shagmundfreud Sun 06-Jan-13 17:54:34

"No, I don't think the NCT is scary. Dogmatic? A bit, despite protestations. Political? A bit, yep. More so with every year."

What, political because it's raising a protest about the rising tide of caesarean sections and emergency intervention in birth? And because of it campaigns for women to have more choices in birth and better care?

Too damn right it's political when it comes to these issues, and thank FUCK that someone is flagging this issue up and not just standing to one side while increasing numbers of women are traumatised by bad care.

And FWIW - the Royal College of Midwives make vastly more noise than the NCT about the importance of normal birth to women and babies. Actually they've set up a whole website to promote normal birth: here

"Together, we can change the way childbirth happens. The Campaign aims to inspire and support normal birth practice. It's a reminder that good birth experiences can happen despite the challenges. Intervention and caesarean shouldn't be the first choice - they should be the last."
(from the RCM website. Imagine if the NCT had that statement on their website, what a hammering they would get!)

And given that this is the case - why the hell isn't the RCM being demonised for guilt tripping women who have medicalised births, or who choose not to breastfeed?"

Why is it only the NCT who is being hammered for voicing EXACTLY the same concerns as the RCM?

"My midwife friend told me that the NCT often sets people up for disappointment and that she has had to comfort too many women over the years who view pain relief as failure and having a c-section as abnormal rather than lifesaving."

I know a couple of midwives who slag the NCT off for setting women up with unrealistic expectations which are then disappointed. These midwives work in a setting where women are often getting suboptimal care. Far better to slag the NCT off (when actually they usually have NO IDEA what the woman has been told as regards pain relief) than accept their much, much more important role in women's disappointing experiences of labour.

AmberSocks Sun 06-Jan-13 14:47:34

never felt the need to go to ante natal classes so cant omment on that,but i think he only people who make women feel guilty are other women.

tiktok Sun 06-Jan-13 12:23:02

Have answered your PM, GreenEggs smile

I'm glad NCT is political, BTW. What's wrong with that? Support for new parents involves campaigning, contact with government and policy drivers; it needs a clear focus and sound thinking about what is needed in order for parents to be supported. You want better paternity leave? You want more and better midwifery? You think women should have good facilities at work to enable them to express milk? And so on.

You have to get your hands in the political pie to be listened to and to effect change.

GreenEggsAndNichts Sun 06-Jan-13 11:26:29

I've sent you a PM because I don't actually want to discuss specifics publically.

I will say that I haven't read every single comment the woman has made, so I should back off when I say I agree with everything. grin No, I don't think the NCT is scary. Dogmatic? A bit, despite protestations. Political? A bit, yep. More so with every year.

I support my local group because it's a terrific group and I think it's important to support new parents. I think the group facilitates friendships and support at an important stage of our lives. I know that my friends here feel the same- they're here for the friendships they've made, and it's nice that they're helping a charity along the way.

I'm well aware of the work the NCT does in other areas. But there's a big middle ground between support for refugees and teen mother groups and where the antenatal courses are. I think a lot of people would just like a course with practical tips, one which doesn't assume you've already done all your homework on the subject.

Anyway. You're right, there's a lot more to it than what I've said here. But I thought it was worth noting the reactions to these courses that I've heard. They've all come from people who didn't attend the same course, and have no agenda attached. Kirstie's managed a whole heap of publicity from this. I honestly didn't know who she was before this week.

I might also just be feeling very negatively at the moment so I should say again, I don't think the NCT is scary. I think at a local level they do some amazing things, especially the specialist workers. However, I don't agree with everything the head office does (will not be going into specifics here), but I don't think that's different from any other organisation.

tiktok Sun 06-Jan-13 00:38:23

GreenEggs, NCT offers several different courses already - NCT 'classic' courses are only one type. NCT teachers and breastfeeding counsellors work in many settings - clinics, maternity units, surestart, prisons, refuges, teenage mother groups, etc. You may not be aware of this - they are not, in many cases, badged as NCT classes.

NCT is training 'Pregnancy Birth and Beyond' practitioners, who are teachers who will facilitate a further type of course. The first classes will become available in a year or so's time when the first cohort of PBB practitioners start practising after qualifying with the University of Worcester. This will be yet another type of course, and is likely to be free of charge for most (because the courses will be commissioned by NHS, Childrens Centres, other agencies).

The only real criticism in your post is that you have heard from a number of women that they did not find the caesarean section education positive. You feel that is what NCT gets wrong - and it appears that some women would agree (a small minority - stats show that 87 per cent of clients find the information gets it 'about right'). I think NCT should continue to strive to get it right for everyone - it's not good if people feel any aspect of the course frightens them, and I know this debate is continually had within NCT. How to be realistic, how to support confidence, how to share information, in a way that parents to be find useful and empowering....it's not easy to get right.

You agree with KA that NCT is politicised, scary and dogmatic? Why would you want to volunteer for such an organisation? You have made friends, through the activities and events set up and supported by it - yet you think it is politicised, scary and dogmatic? Honestly? Just because of this difficulty you have experienced second hand about the way caesarean section is presented? There must be more to it than this.

GreenEggsAndNichts Sat 05-Jan-13 21:11:51

I'm an active volunteer in my local NCT branch. I have made many friends through various activities sponsored by the organisation.

I agree with Kirstie.

I will also stress, before I say what I'm going to say, that I am very aware that NCT courses vary from region to region.

I realise some people think the C-section roleplay is informative, however I have heard from many people who attended our local courses who felt it was negative. Labour = all very natural and lovely and something to experience, but C-section = frightening, surrounded by strangers with lots of wires hooked up to you. Another complaint I've heard several times (keep in mind, all from people who do not know each other, and not prompted by me at all) was that the courses were too much about how they "felt" about being pregnant, or going into labour, rather than the practicalities of it. I can't comment on these beyond this is what I've heard from many people who have struck up conversations with me regarding the NCT, because they know about my activity with the charity.

My antenatal course (not NCT) featured: specifics about labour, practicalities of what to expect during the process of calling the hospital, checking in, and even a map with directions from one hospital to another (because the main hospital in the city has closed many times over the last year, she was letting us know to be prepared to be sent to the other hospital). Then of course a lot of detail about labour and different forms of pain relief. Feeding, she stressed breast feeding, but was able to talk about bottle feeding (which is so important- statistics show a number of people choose to bottle feed, why leave them at the mercy of their mother's instructions on how to prepare a bottle? Formula has changed since we were children and it can't be prepared in advance the way she did it!) (and no, I didn't formula feed- no doubt someone will care about that...) etc etc.

Now, yes, different people want different things from their antenatal courses. But I think the NCT needs to look into offering different courses. We're constantly stressing how we want to reach everyone (read: younger mums, not the typical NCT middle class 30+ yr old mum) but if we want to reach everyone then we need to offer classes which get back to basics regarding pregnancy and labour. The NCT courses now sound like they mostly appeal to women who have already done a great deal of research on their own and would like to supplement that. (or simply to meet other new mums, let's face it, that's a driving factor for many!)

Honestly, I've had a look at her Twitter feed, and I've yet to find something I disagree with. I was disappointed with the reaction from the head office. Why immediately go on the defensive? Yes, they're also inviting people to give feedback on their courses, but the overwhelming feeling is that of "let's protect the NCT from this negative publicity."

It's quite timely, actually. I've heard a number of casual complaints from acquaintances over the last few months, and I encouraged them to give feedback to people who matter more than myself. Most of them don't, or won't, because they just can't be bothered as they're done with their course, made the friends they wanted, and are immersed in newborn nappies.

I hope no one takes my comments personally. The longer I am involved with the organisation, the more jaded I feel about certain aspects of it.

tiktok Sat 05-Jan-13 18:55:37

No, I didn't think you were literally 'outraged', Balloon, hence my smile icon.

You did find it hilarious, in the sense of risible, though, and I thought an explanation/other POV was called for. Hope you found it helpful.

BalloonSlayer Sat 05-Jan-13 17:30:25

I hope your smile meant you didn't mean the "outraged" comment, tiktok, - to clarify, I thought it was hilarious. grin

I've only had caesareans, although I did have some labour with DC1, and although I feel that NCT classes should cover caesareans to an extent, and certainly not overlook the topic as some have suggested they do, I really don't think that they need "preparing for" to anything like the degree labour and vaginal births do.

tiktok Sat 05-Jan-13 15:46:07

balloon, nct classes do use activities and involve 'things' to enable easier, more direct and effective learning. It's a respected pedagogical approach, well-evidenced, for adults as well as children. It does not need to be infantalising, as your outraged reply suggests smile

I'd say this though: if people prefer sitting in rows watching a power point 'presentation' with a lecture-style trainer, and no interaction, and of course some people do, they'd find nct classes to be rather different from this.

bluebiscuit Sat 05-Jan-13 15:31:36

Iirc we did a class on vaginal birth and a class on c section. All balanced, the teacher was sensible and just wanted everyone's baby to be born safely.

There was also a breast feeding class. I am not sure if there was anything on ff in the next class because I missed the rest of the classes as I got complications of pg.

pistachio Sat 05-Jan-13 15:19:18

balloon- the feedback i have had from clients who have had CS is that the role play was very helpful. All that happens is each person has a card with a job title on it, and we stand round roughly how theatre would be set up and talk through each person's role. It is a way of getting the conversation flowing, of making it more real and allows the group to raise questions as we go along. Practical things they hadn;t thought of, like whether they will be able to hold their baby straight away, or what sensations they might feel, who will be the person they can turn to for reassurance during the operation etc. Thoughts come up that wouldn't spring to mind if we just sat in a circle.

I promise there are no plastic scalpels and dressing up costumes involved grin.

nickelbabylyinginamanger Sat 05-Jan-13 13:43:33

tiktok - i know you would never tolerate that in your groups.
she went to the groups for a support network and for help with latching or anything else she was having problems with and had missed - she really did try everything to get him to feed well. she also was recommended to go there by the people who sorted out his tongue-tie, to get support for persevering and help with the tongue exercises etc.

the CMPI thing came later.

Xenia - it wasn't an NCT one, i don't think. i was just commenting on those who were saying that formula feeders have no place in a BFing group. my friend did, because she was trying to reduce the FF and do BF, but she was treated like she didn't belong and that she was evil for FFing.

Xenia Sat 05-Jan-13 13:36:14

nickel, I had thought your post was going to end - she went to the group and someone told her how you can get someone to cut under the tongue to remove the tongue tie so she could feed well. Sorry it was so bad but most people do find NCT classes terribly helpful. Well worth joining as are La Leche League and other groups for those breastfeeding.

The NCT has never (even when I had my first children in the 80s or even when my mother went in the 60s) ever just been on about natural birth. Classes always describe all kinds of birth. No one ever classes someone who as a C section or bottle feeds as a failure. Having children is not about failing, mind you perhaps I have always been insulated from the issues raised because I went back to work full time at 2 weeks so never really was with other mothers or groups in that sense once the babies came so managed to avoid over 30 years things like school gate chat, other mothers and the like- lucky me.

BalloonSlayer Sat 05-Jan-13 13:34:35

Sorry but snnnoooooooooort at They role play CS and have a game with playmobil people showing how crowded the room can become.

But I thought NCT classes are for grown ups?

Seriously, why do you need to "role play" lying completely still on a table?

And are people genuinely unable to understand the verbal information: "the operating theatre can get quite crowded when you have a CS" without recourse to little plastic dollies?

tiktok Sat 05-Jan-13 13:14:10

nickel, there is never any good reason for being unkind, or nasty, or making any individual woman feel uncomfortable. I hope your friend complained about this.

Breastfeeding support groups are not the best place to get clinical assessments of things like CMPI - the clue is in the name. They support breastfeeding in a social sense, but they are not geared up to fix breastfeeding problems. They're fine on basic physiology and practical stuff, and they should refer on if something is beyond that. If there is anyone to refer to....

The trouble is, there is insufficient knowledge about the clinical aspects of feeding babies and mothers end up at support groups 'cos there is nowhere else to go, and no one else to see. They may even be referred to the support group by an HCP, and go there with expectations that underlying medical issues will be i) spotted and ii) fixed

What you are describing is the sort of unpleasant judgmental response I have seen everywhere in my experience as a mother - the toddler group where no one speaks to you, the group where people mutter about someone with a child going through a difficult phase, the schoolgates mafia. Some people are just not nice....but with a group that has some sort of outside funding, branding, support or management, there is always the possibility of making a complaint, so things can change.

nickelbabylyinginamanger Sat 05-Jan-13 10:40:12

now, i actually disagree with the breastfeeding/formula feeding groups issue raised here.

My friend had huge problems BFing her 5th - he was tongue tied and had failure to thrive etc etc.
he also turned out to have CMPI (friend only found out because she is herself and had started to eat dairy to see if she was okay with it, and DS reacted badly to it)
she had been mix feeding because after trying everything he was still not thriving. she went along to one of those BF support groups and had to feed him with formula while she was there and they were really really nasty to her about it. and she was asked to leave.
even though she had gone there to get help with her BFing problems.

Startail Sat 05-Jan-13 00:08:55

Bolder dash and piffle!

Sorry Kirsty, but I know several NCT teachers. They role play CS and have a game with playmobil people showing how crowded the room can become.

Reasons for CS, forceps, ventouse etc are discussed as are all forms of pain relief.

Yes the classes are aimed at empowering women and their partners to try for the birth they want, but they are also aimed at giving you the tools to understand the birth you got.

personally, I can't remember if CS were mentioned in the first, set of NCT classes 15 years ago, but they were in the second.

Ten years later my NCT group still meet up occasionally.

I can't remember everyone's birth story's now, there were CSs and excitements and one very laid back home birth.

However, I cheated I was the only second time mumgrin

Some FF and some BF, no one judged (I certainly didn't as I have had DDs who been absolute polar opposites about feeding).

Knowing each other this long, the baby stuff really became irrelevant, we were just friends chattering about life, bringing up toddlers, then returning to work, having siblings and choosing schools.

Won't be long before we are worrying about BFs

tiktok Fri 04-Jan-13 23:38:04

brettgirl, some women who are breastfeeding need a safe space where they will not be criticised, undermined or made to feel odd, crazy, selfish or exhibitionist. I work with women whose breastfeeding is fragile, who want to bf, but who are undermined at every turn in doing it. A breastfeeding support group for them is a lifeline....they don't feel 'uncomfortable' with women formula feeding, but some breastfeeding support groups do have a general rule that they are for breastfeeding women and formula feeding women sharing this space is undermining for them. You may disagree with this, or think it is 'weird', but that's the way it is.

I don't think all breastfeeding support groups should be closed to formula feeders, but I understand why some are.

Home birth on the website: the topic is known to be a popular choice not solely from it being on the front page but mainly from google searches - that's part of the way websites track their traffic. People search home birth and come to the nct website that way.

NCT is a charity, whose remit is education for parenthood. It is focussed on services to parents, and training for people to deliver those services. A small but important part of its work is campaigning. It has no funds to support research of the sort you are asking for, and would be acting outside its legal charity boundaries if it worked in this way.

brettgirl2 Fri 04-Jan-13 21:45:21

Tiktok exactly you want to support all which is why the breastfeeding as opposed to infant feeding is odd. Why would someone breastfeeding be uncomfortable in 'mixed' company, just weird.

As Horatia says they are not working hard enough not to alienate. You may think I' m stupid/ mad/ badly informed or whatever but I' m not alone in my perceptions.

Low risk pregnancy is the only type where mw led units and hb is even relevant. I agree conception not direct to NCT but in terms of everything going as we want it is another source of failure for women, perhaps not entirely relevant.

Strongly disagree that the information on epidural is balanced. I could come up with a more helpful list of advantages myself. HB is probably more popular purely because there are more pages thus it stays on the front!!!

Perhaps if the NCT funded further research in areas where it is desperately needed I would have more faith. If that's not what they are about then I probably never will.

mrswheezie Fri 04-Jan-13 21:12:37

When I first became pregnant I got a lot of conflicting advice about whether or not to take NCT classes. A few of my friends had taken the class and loved the social aspect but weren't particularly bothered by the info, in fact their description was reminiscent of an exclusive match making service! Another close friend who has been a midwife for over 10 years told me NOT to attend and to spend my money on a weekend away with my husband. My midwife friend told me that the NCT often sets people up for disappointment and that she has had to comfort too many women over the years who view pain relief as failure and having a c-section as abnormal rather than lifesaving.
I decided to take the classes for a number of reasons, among them was helping my busy husband to be better informed so that he wouldn't feel too bewildered in the delivery room. In fact he came out feeling like they hadn't taught him a thing and compared it to a gcse biology lesson.
By the time the NCT classes rolled around, we had a very stuck very breech little girl and had been scheduled for a c-section. We played along with all the role play and the info sessions thinking surely they will get to the c-section bit soon...towards the end of the session it was clear that all we were getting was a glossed over mention. Another couple who were also in the same boat as us have since become very firm friends of ours. We all felt that it isn't the information itself it's the way it's presented. Each NCT teacher clearly has their own teaching style and emphasis on what they feel to be important but it clearly wasn't c-sections or pain relief in our case. In fact at one point epidurals were completely demonized.
The breastfeeding session was also held (for the teachers convenience) in a small village 40 minutes away by car (we don't drive) rather than in the large city we live in. We were unable to attend and I was given very short shrift for complaining about the location. Customer service not the nct's strong point.
The day before my scheduled c-sec my baby turned...then I was 12 days overdue...I was induced...spent 24 hours in labour and finally had an emcs. I had done a lot of research myself but I still felt uninformed but very lucky to come out with a healthy baby and am alive me. Why my nct felt the need to ignore a lifesaving procedure which saved me and my baby i will never understand. I wrote several emails about my concerns but never got a reply. I wish I'd spent that money on a babymoon!

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